The abbey of Admont is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1074, located in the center of Austria among the mountains of Styria, which contains the largest monastic library in the world where there are over 180 000 works, some dating back to the 8th century
Stift Admont History
The abbey was founded in 1074 by Ottocaro I of Styria and by Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg, who sent monks from the prestigious Abbey of San Pietro. In 1152 it was almost destroyed due to a big fire and was promptly rebuilt with the decisive contribution of the then archbishop of Salzburg, Saint Everard.
From the end of the 11th century, the monks of Admont, who obeyed the rule of Saint Benedict, began to collect religious manuscripts, copied in a special laboratory built inside the monastery. After the invention of printing, the collection was enriched with incunabula and original editions of rare and important works.
The wars against the Turks and the reform caused a long decline of the monastery, but with the subsequent Counter-Reformation the abbey flourished again and with the new Enlightenment ideas a great project took shape which had the ambition to put the abbey of Admont on the same level of the Escorial of Madrid. The great library completed in 1776 was built of this grandiose project.
In 1865 a disastrous fire destroyed almost the whole monastery, but spared the library. The reconstruction began the following year with the construction of the new church designed by the architect Wilhelm Bücher, in neo-Gothic style and inspired by the cathedral of Regensburg.
The economic crises of the 1930s forced the abbey to alienate many of its art treasures. During the Nazi period the monastery was first occupied by the army and then closed and the monks moved away.
Restored after the war, the abbey, where 27 monks now live, has been able to resume its tradition of safeguarding the cultural heritage: since 1997 it has collected and exhibited the works of contemporary Austrian artists. In May 2003, the new museum of contemporary art was opened next to the large library.
Today Admont Abbey is a center of faith and culture of international importance.
The abbey library, which began in the mid-eighteenth century, was completed in 1776 under Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. It consists of an imposing rococo-style building, with cathedral dimensions: 79 meters long by 14 meters wide. The huge and splendid room is illuminated by seven elegant domes decorated with allegorical frescoes in Trompe-l'œil made by Bartolomeo Altomonte, which celebrate science and religion. A group of sculptures represents the Last Judgment, a classic theme of the eighteenth-century theological discussion.
Everywhere the walls are covered with volumes and are enriched with busts of scholars and artists who together with evangelists and prophets watch over the studies of monks and researchers.
Although spared from the disastrous fire of 1865, the library had suffered several damage, never fully repaired. The abandonment of the monastery in the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War had produced some important damage and accentuated the degradation of the complex. The impressive restoration works, financed by the European Union, recently concluded, have allowed the complete recovery of the wall structures, the frescoes, the wooden coverings and the sculptures. About seventy thousand books and another five thousand completely restored were also cleaned.
Today 180,000 works are collected in the Benedictine library, including 1400 manuscripts, some of which date back to the 8th century, and 530 incunabula